Well over the last few months the spring / summer seasons have certainly been slow to arrive and as a nation of DIY-ers, a lot of us are dusting off our ladders, digging out our toolboxes and planning projects in our gardens.
Whilst a bit of DIY is good news for your home, unfortunately this time of year is also when we see an influx of people with neck, back and shoulder pain after doing too much!
Even I am not invincible... In the spring, I took on a mammoth decorating task at home, resulting in neck and upper back pain... And I should have known better!
Much of the injuries we suffer are because we perform repetitive movement patterns in ways that we do not usually move, and our bodies are not set up for that, so our soft tissues and joints start to complain.
In the same way that you prepare a room before decorating, warming up your body can prevent strains and aches. Before climbing up the ladder, how often do you remember to do some exercises, and what exercises should you do? Perhaps a timely blog on the subject would save some of you from unnecessary pain.
Here are some tips to prevent you from doing what I did:
General Warm-up and Warm-down Exercises
Warming up doesn't have to take much time at all. The following exercises are simple and quick and should help you stay nimble and injury free!
For Your Lower Back
Knee hugs: Lay on your back and hug your knees towards your chest. Hold for 10-20 seconds and repeat 2/3 times.
Twists: Whilst still on your back, put your feet flat to the floor, and keeping your knees together and bent, drop both knees to the same side, returning to centre before dropping to the other side. Drop to each side 4/5 times as far as is comfortable, not pushing through any pain.
Side bends: Standing, slide your left hand down your left leg so you are bending to the side, return to neutral and then do the same down the right side. Repeat 4/5 times.
Circles: Standing up, put your hands on your hips and rotate your hips clockwise for 5 circles, then anti clockwise for 5 circles in a range that is not painful for you.
For Your Upper Back
Thigh slides: Sit comfortably with feet flat on the floor, feeling the pressure through the midline of each foot. Draw yourself up from the top of your head until you can feel your weight dropping through your sitting bones. Place your hands on your thighs and relax your neck and shoulders. Keeping your head facing forward, slide one hand forward and the other back, allowing your shoulders to turn fully. Reverse the movement and repeat. Bring awareness to hands and trunk movement - your arm is connected to your trunk such that your arm is an extension of your trunk and they move together
Neck rolls: Sit comfortably with feet flat on the floor, feeling the pressure through the midline of each foot. Draw yourself up from the top of your head until you can feel your weight dropping through your sitting bones. Relax your neck and shoulders.
Movement: Smoothly and slowly turn your head to the left, pause, and return to the start point. Repeat to the right.
Eagle arms: (both easy and advanced version for strength and stretching the upper back)
Sit comfortably with feet flat on the floor, feeling the pressure through the midline of each foot. Draw yourself up from the top of your head until you can feel your weight dropping through your sitting bones. Begin by reaching your arms out in front of you.
Then cross your arms and wrap them around yourself, like you are giving yourself a hug, with the right arm on top of the left arm. If you can reach the fingertips to the inner border of the shoulder blade, then you can try for the advanced version. If you can’t get your elbows stacked over each other or reach the inner border of the shoulder blade, then stay here.
Advanced: from this hugging position bend the elbows so the fingertips point to the ceiling. Gently push the right elbow into the crease of the left elbow. The backs of the hands should be facing each other. Now bring the right hand to the right and the left hand to the left so you can sneak the right hands palm passed the left pinky finger. The palms should now be facing each other, and you can try to get the hands to line up with each other as best you can. Your forearms are now nicely twisted together. Whether you are doing the advanced or the easier version you can start to pull the arms away from the chest.
You are trying to create space between the arms and the chest here, and you should feel an increased stretch through the tops of your arm as and upper back. Do not collapse forward, try to keep the spine straight. Stay here for 30 secs or longer, and you can repeat it 3-5 times. Then do the other side.
It's very easy to lose track of time when you're busy but spending too long in one position is not good for your body. We're often bent forward doing tasks such as painting, lifting, or carrying or spending time stretching up trying to reach something. Too long in one position can lead to overstretch of muscles and joints which can lead to inflammation and pain.
To avoid this, there are 2 key things to follow:
Don't spend too long in one position! Try breaking jobs up into small sections and even having 2.3 things on the go at different heights. Make sure you take time out to change your posture every 15/20 minutes, go get a cup of tea or have a walk around before returning.
Realised you've been in one position longer than you wanted to be? Stand up and have a walk round and maybe do some of the warmup stretches to reduce any stiffness in your body before carrying on working. Your body will thank you!
A little extra care after the job's done
It's important to stay hydrated through the day so make sure to drink plenty of fluid. If you're a tea drinker, walking those mugs back to the kitchen is a great way to help your body move again! Whilst you're there, grab a glass of water and keep sipping at it while you work.
If you take a little time to keep moving through the day, you'll make light work of DIY tasks with no complaints from your body. I’ll certainly be taking my own advice next time I take on a mammoth decorating session.
Don't forget, we're here to help you when those aches and pains don't settle quickly.
Post by Jane Morris.